Father Camillo Tirabassi, nicknamed “Father Cam” by parishioners, knows that marriage, for the majority of young people, will be a reality. But he prays that all young people will pray about their vocation, strive to hear God’s voice and “accept the call of Jesus.”
For him, however, the path differed. His call was one to the priesthood.
Born in 1931, Father Tirabassi is the youngest of Camillo and Angelica Tirabassi’s six children. His family rarely attended Sunday Mass outside of a special occasion and were “in no hurry” to baptize him: He received the sacrament at 4 years old and began his education in public school, moving to Catholic school in third grade at the prompting of his mother.
It was there that he encountered his first impactful witness of joyful vocation. He met priests and Sisters of Notre Dame who worked closely with his grade school. As his faith bloomed from those encounters, he longed to be more involved, so he happily volunteered to help the religious, whom he cited as influences in his journey. “They were always so good to me.”
With the help of their witness of living faith and prayerful support, a call to the priesthood became clear. He attended Brunnerdale Minor Seminary after middle school, continued his formation at Our Lady of the Lake college seminary and finished at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West in Cincinnati. He was ordained on May 30, 1959. His first assignment was to no particular parish, but to a Catholic Youth Organization camp. He loved the diverse age range of the attendees and the opportunities such a placement presented.
Shortly thereafter, Father Tirabassi received an assignment to St. Joseph Parish in Fort Wayne as associate pastor. He served with four different pastors during his 14 years there, before, receiving his first parish assignment as pastor: St. John Bosco Parish in Churubusco and Immaculate Conception Parish in Ege. After five years, Bishop William E. McManus installed him as pastor of Queen of Peace Parish in Mishawaka, where he remained for 10 years.
Under Bishop John M. D’Arcy, Father Tirabassi accepted the additional responsibility of chaplain for Saint Joseph High School in South Bend — first for four years, until a new chaplain could be found, then for another 28 years as an associate. He still loves to watch the student athletes succeed, especially in football — until it gets cold, that is. Then he enthusiastically listens through the radio.
His final assignment was to Corpus Christi Parish in South Bend. He served for 21 years at the parish, retiring in 2009. In retirement he resided at Holy Family Parish for four years and currently lives at St. Hedwig.
He said he is both grateful and surprised to have lived as long as he has and credits his longevity to his favorite pastime in his youth: weightlifting.
When it comes to retirement, Father Tirabassi reflected: “It gives you a lot more time to think, to pray and if you want, to study. The whole idea of retirement, I think, is to help us realize that something other than this life is coming.” From this reflection, he has concluded that he would do it all again. He hopes that if he did, he would be both more prayerful and more studious.
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